What is primary health care?

Primary health care is typically a person’s first point of contact with the health-care system. It includes a range of community-based services essential to maintaining and improving health and well-being throughout an individual’s entire lifespan. Primary health care ensures people receive comprehensive care as close as possible to their everyday environment.

Primary health care is about providing the right care at the right time in the right place – a focus on healthy living by prevention, health promotion and support for self-management and improving coordination and continuity of care.

Primary health care includes services that promote health and wellness, prevent illness, treat health issues or injuries, and diagnose and manage chronic health conditions. It can include interactions with providers such as counsellors, family doctors, occupational therapists, pharmacists, social workers, and others. It is rooted in the recognition of the fundamental right to the highest attainable standard of health.

The main principles of primary health care are:

  • Access to services;
  • Active public participation;
  • Health promotion and chronic disease management;
  • Prevention and management;
  • Use of appropriate technology for better health and
  • Sectors and groups working together.

Primary health care focuses on factors that determine health across the lifespan. Learn more about these factors, called the determinants of health.

Have a look at this short video to see how primary health care impacts health across the lifespan.

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Last updated: 2021-05-21